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Pat Irwin

Coloured block

Planetary atmospheric physicist

I grew up in Trowbridge, in rural Wiltshire.  I did my undergraduate degree and then D.Phil. in physics at Oxford University. After a brief spell in industry as a Systems Analyst in London, I came back to do a couple of postdocs in Oxford, before a lecturer in the physics department in 1996. 

My research interests lie in observing and modelling the visible and infrared spectra of planetary atmospheres, both in our own solar system and more recently exoplanets. I have a particular interest in observing the visible and near-infrared reflectance spectra of cloudy giant planets and analysing these spectra with our retrieval tool, NEMESIS, to deduce the vertical and horizontal distribution of clouds and gases in these atmospheres.  I, and my research group, am involved both with ground-based observations (with telescopes such as VLT) and also space missions such as Cassini and Mars Trace Gas Orbiter.

I regularly speak to local societies about my work.

Wednesday 30th Jan 2019, 09.00am

Why does Uranus smell like farts?

Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, has the poetic name of the Greek god of the heavens. In the English language, it is, unfortunately, the literal butt of every astronomy joke. And last year the new discovery about the seventh planet’s odour – or, more precisely, the chemical composition of its atmosphere – has not helped the comic element. In this week’s Big Questions podcast we visited...

Why does Uranus smell like farts?